Friday, June 29, 2012

Ready for Heaven?

‎"I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven."

— A.W. Tozer

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Contra Hyper-spirituality

‎"If God gave you a watch would you honor Him more by asking Him for the time of day or by consulting the watch?" -- A.W. Tozer  

HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Awe Puts Us in Our Place"

from Paul David Tripp:

It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation.

Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but our awe of theology is dangerous if it doesn't produce practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don't put our trust in strategies, but in the God of awesome glory who is the head of the church. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. I cannot grow arrogant and smug about my gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God I serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy in its proper place. Yes, we should want to lead people in worship that is both biblical and engaging, but we have no power to really engage the heart without the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit who propels and applies all we seek to do. Awe of God puts our buildings and property in their proper place. How a building is constructed, maintained, and used is very important, but buildings have never called or justified anyone---only a God of awesome sovereign grace can do so. Awe of God puts our history and traditions in their proper place. Yes, we should be thankful for the ways God has worked in our past, and we should seek to retain the things that are a proper expression of what he says is important. But we don't rest in our history---only in the God of glory who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Our generation must be committed to commend God's works to the next generation so that they may be rescued by and motivated by a glory bigger than the typical catalog of glories they would choose for themselves.

Hope for the Awe-Numb

It's very hard to preach and shape the ministry of the church this way if familiarity has produced blindness that effectively robs you of awe of God. It is very difficult to give away what you do not possess yourself. In ways you do not always realize, your ministry is always shaped by what functionally controls your heart. If you are more motivated by the awe-inspiring experience of having the esteem and respect of the people around you, you will do ministry in a way that is structured to get that respect, even though you probable aren't aware of it. If your heart is ruled by the awesome power that comes from controlling the people and situations around you, you will work in your ministry to be in control. If your heart is more ruled by fear of man than by fear of God, you will build a ministry that erects walls of protection and a moat between your public persona and your private life. If your heart is more moved by the awe-stimulating experience of being theologically right than it is by an awe of God who lives at the center of all that theology, you will be a theological gate keeper who does not pastor messy people well. If your heart is ruled by envy over the awe-inspiring ministry of another, you will minister out of a debilitating dissatisfaction with the situation and location of your calling.

Remember, your ministry is never just shaped by your gifts, knowledge, skill, and experience. It is also shaped by the condition of your heart. This is why it is important to acknowledge that local church ministry is one big glory war. In every situation, location, and relationship of your ministry, there is a war going on for what glory will magnetize your heart, and therefore, shape your ministry. There is a war going on between the awe of God and all the awe-inspiring things that God created. Awe of God will capture you and your ministry, or they will be captured by some kind of created awe. Any glorious thing in creation was given that glory by God so it would function as a finger, pointing you to the one glory that should rule your heart---him.

Many pastors become awe-numb, awe-confused, or get awe-kidnapped. Many pastors look at glory and don't see glory anymore. Many pastors are just cranking out weekly because they don't know what else to do. Many pastors preach a boring, uninspiring gospel that makes you wonder why more people aren't sleeping their way through it. Many pastors are better at arguing fine points of doctrine than they are at stimulating divine wonder in you. Many pastors seem more stimulated by the next ministry vision or the next step in the strategic plan than they are by the stunning glory of the grand intervention of grace into sin-broken hearts. The glories of being right, successful, in control, esteemed, and secure often become more influential in ministry than the awesome realities of the presence, sovereignty, power, and love of God. Many pastors have lost their awe and either don't know it or don't know how to get it back. What about you?

-- Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries , a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living, including the forthcoming Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Real World Trust in God

"You may be going through hell right now. You may be bewildered, gasping, frightened. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t trusting God. It might mean you are trusting God." - Ray Ortlund Jr.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Has thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?"

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols oft they win thee, charm thee
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee hence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth ...

...Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter void and smart [pain],
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.

[For] Who extinguishes their taper [candle]
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer hath begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw;
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw....

...Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Chorus: Captivated by His beauty
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King!
--Miss Ora Rowan (1834-1879)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Message of the Bible (from D.A. Carson)

D. A. Carson:

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London, UK: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), 80.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Christian, your suffering is not punishment...

“My friend, if you belong to Christ, you can be confident that your suffering is not punishment for your sin. And how do I know that? Because someone has already been punished for your sin so that you won’t have to be. All the punishment you deserve for your sin—your outright rebellion against God or your utter apathy toward God, your refusal to love him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, all of the ugliest, most shameful things you have said and done—it has all been laid on Jesus. He was punished for your sin so you won’t have to be.”

— Nancy Guthrie, "The Wisdom of God"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"God delights in honoring zeal"

"Nothing is so effective in keeping true Christianity alive as the yeast of zealous Christians scattered throughout the Church. Like salt, they prevent the whole body from falling into a state of decay. No one but people of this kind can revive Churches that are about to die. It is impossible to overestimate the debt that all Christians owe to zeal. The greatest mistake the leaders of a Church can make is to drive zealous people out of its congregation. By doing so they drain out the life-blood of the system, and advance the church’s decline and death. God delights in honoring zeal. Look through the list of Christians who have been used most mightily by God. Who are the people that have left the deepest and most indelible marks on the Church of their day? Who are the people that God has generally honored to build up the walls of His Zion, and also to fight the enemy at the gate? He does not use people of learning and literary talent as readily as people of zeal."

 ~ J.C. Ryle

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Longing to Go Home"

“I must have the Savior indeed, for he is my All.  All that others have in the world and in religion and in themselves I have in thee — pleasures, riches, safety, honor, life, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, bliss, joy, gaiety and happiness . . . . If a child longs for his father, a traveller for the end of his journey, a workman to finish his work, a prisoner for liberty, an heir for the full possession of his estate, so in all these respects I cannot help longing to go home.”

-- Howell Harris, quoted in D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans (Edinburgh, 1987), page 300
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A great way to live...

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." (John Wesley)

Monday, June 18, 2012

"The Motivation Behind Everything We Say and Do"

I can hardly think of a more crucial concern for evangelicalism today than what Paul Tripp writes of so eloquently here:

...Could there be a greater danger in ministry than the one leading the ministry losing his awe? Let me explain.

Perhaps we should begin with one of the Bible's awe passages, Psalm 145....

What is the worldview of this psalm? Every human being has been hardwired by God to live in daily awe of him. This means the awe of God was designed to be the deepest, most life-shaping practical daily motivation of every human being. This is the calling of every person. This is the umbrella of protection over every person. This is the reality that defines and gives shape to every other reality.

What does this functionally look like? Awe of God should in some way motivate everything I do and say. Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do and parent my children in the manner I do. It should be the reason I function the way I do at my job or handle my finances the way I do. It should structure the way I think about possessions, positions, and power. Awe of God should shape and motivate my relationship with my extended family and neighbors. Awe of God should give direction to the way I live as a citizen of the wider community. It should form the way I think about myself and my expectations of others. Awe of God should lift me out of my darkest moments of discouragement and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations. Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin, while it makes me more patient with and tender toward the weakness of others. It should give me courage I would find no other way, and wisdom to know when I am out of my league. Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence.

But there is more. Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God. A human being not living with functional awe of God is profoundly disadvantaged. He is off the rails, trying to propel the train of his life in a meadow, and he may not even know it. When awe of God is absent, it is quickly replaced by awe of ourselves. If you are not living for God the only other alternative is to live for yourself. So a church must turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

This means every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children's ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God's glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women's ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and myriad self-interests that nip at their hearts; awe of God provides that rescue. Men's ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God's glory, rather than their own. Missions and evangelism, too, must be awe-driven.

Remember, Paul argues that this is the reason for the cross. He says that Jesus came so that "those who live may no longer live for themselves, but for him who loved them and gave himself for them" (2 Corinthians 5:15). Only powerful grace can keep this awe alive. Only then can we be used to ignite that awe in others.

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries , a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living, including the forthcoming Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children.

from the Gospel Coalition website.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Augustine On Loving God and Other Things

‎"He values not Christ at all who does not value Christ above all."

"He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake."

"If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please [you] you may not displease Him."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Prophet, Priest and King

Christ’s offices render Him glorious in the believer’s eye, and dear to the believer’s heart. He is in office for us, for our salvation, peace, and satisfaction.

He is a Prophet, who, possessing all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, condescends to instruct the ignorant sons of men. He opens to our view, the mysteries of redeeming mercy, and reveals the glorious designs of sovereign grace. He teaches man his true condition, and discovers to him how God can be just, and the justifier of such a sinner as he feels himself to be.

He is a Priest, who has made an atonement for the guilty, by offering one sacrifice to God, and has entered to the holy place, ever living to make intercession for us. He reconciled us to God, by His expiating death, and saves us by His life of intercession. He presents our prayers, persons, and sacrifices to God; making them acceptable by the incense of His merits.

He is a King, who receives the returning rebel, and grants a pardon. He rules over His people by His love and His laws; and defends all who trust Him, from danger and death. He rules over mankind, and in the believer; and is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

As a Prophet He saves from ignorance and error; as a Priest He saves from guilt and condemnation; and as a King He saves from dangers and foes.

— James Smith
"The Glories of Christ"

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, June 14, 2012

God Is the Ultimate Reality

"The triune God is the central reality around which the secondary and tertiary realities of nature and virtual simulations revolve. In this world, persons in holy, loving, committed relationship are the weightiest and heaviest realities toward which all other beings should be pulled by the inexorable reality-field of God at the center. In this ontology, the world of the supernatural-God, heaven, hell, angels, demons, miracles, the saints and martyrs and prophets and apostles of the invisible church above-is as real as the natural and is more real than the socially constructed world of the virtual...."

-- John Jefferson Davis. "Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence" (pp. 23-24). Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A blessed rest...

‎"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. [There is] a blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness can bring." - Tim Keller

Monday, June 11, 2012

The evangelical task...

A good post from Collin Hansen, reflecting on this crucial perspective from Carl F.H. Henry

"The evangelical task primarily is the preaching of the Gospel, in the interest of individual regeneration by the supernatural grace of God, in such a way that divine redemption can be recognized as the best solution of our problems, individual and social. This produces within history, through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, a divine society that transcends national and international lines. The corporate testimony of believers, in their purity of life, should provide for the world an example of the divine dynamic to overcome evils in every realm. The social problems of our day are much more complex than in apostolic times, but they do not on that account differ in principle. When the twentieth century church begins to "out-live" its environment as the first century church outreached its pagan neighbors, the modern mind, too, will stop casting about for other solutions."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spirit-filled intelligence

“In our quest for the fullness of the Spirit, we have sometimes forgotten that a Spirit-filled intelligence is one of the powerful weapons for pulling down satanic strongholds.”

-- Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove, 1979), page 183.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our deepest concern?

"We tend to live with what is good for us as our deepest concern. We want our friendships to be happy, our investments to have a good return, our health to be constantly good, our families to be united, and our futures to be secure. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, but if that is all you want, your world is narrower than it was ever meant to be. You see, God isn’t entering into your miniscule little kingdom to do everything he can to make it successful. Instead, he has welcomed you out of your personal kingdom allegiance into the history-spanning expansiveness of his kingdom, to be part of what he planned not only before your first breath, but also literally before the foundations of the world were laid in place. You were never created to live with your goals and needs as your deepest concerns. You and I were created to know, serve, love, and worship him. This means desiring that his kingdom flourish and his glory to be displayed. Practically, this means being motivated more by the glory of God than by what you think would make you comfortable and happy."

Paul David Tripp, "Lost in the Middle" (p. 216). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Scattering the clouds"

"One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face, will do more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining old experience, by the best marks that can be given, through a whole year."

-- — Jonathan Edwards, quoted by Jared C. Wilson in "Gospel Wakefulness"
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011), 79

HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Refining, not incinerating

‎"God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (v. 13) is a beautifully comforting statement. God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows your spiritual IQ and the size of your spiritual muscles. He knows how much you have learned from experience and how much you haven’t. He knows exactly how functionally blind you actually are. He knows how big the gap is between your confessional theology and your functional theology. So, he knows exactly how much heat to apply. He knows when to send trial your way and when to provide release. He knows the difference between refining you and incinerating you. He knows just how to boil out your pride while he is building your courage. He knows just what resources to send your way and exactly when they are needed...."

-- Paul David Tripp (on 1 Peter 1:6-9)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Getting to the Crux of Calvary"

Richard Mouw's essay in Christianity Today...the subtitle:  "Each atonement theory highlights a truth about the Cross—but none more so than Christ's substitutionary death."

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Great Exchange

“When we are united to Christ a mysterious exchange takes place: he took our curse, so that we may receive his blessing; he became sin with our sin, so that we may become righteous with his righteousness. . . . On the one hand, God declined to ‘impute’ our sins to us, or ‘count’ them against us, with the implication that he imputed them to Christ instead.  On the other, God has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. . . . We ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed to us, nor Christ anything of what is imputed to him. . . . He voluntarily accepted liability for our sins.”

-- John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, 1986), pages 148-149.
HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bitterness -- more vertical than horiontal

"Bitterness focuses on a boss that never recognized what you were capable of, a spouse who never got their act together, a rebellious child who destroyed the family dream, or a church that failed to recognize your ministry potential. In reality, however, your bitterness is more vertical than it is horizontal. As believers we deny that life is orchestrated by fate, luck, chance, cause and effect, or some system of natural laws. We affirm that the world and everything in it is controlled by a Person who orders and rules everything by his wisdom, power, and goodness. It’s hard to admit, but when we are angry, we are in reality angry at God."

-- Paul David Tripp, "Lost in the Middle" (p. 151). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hope for Those in Mid-life

"Celebrate the fact that God is the God of fresh starts. Remember Moses, David, Peter, and Paul, all people in Scripture who in the middle of their lives were rescued by God and set on a new and better pathway. You do not have to wallow in remorse. You have been graced by God with the opportunity to start fresh once more. Celebrate! Your life is not over; you are only in the middle, and because of his grace, your best and brightest years are still ahead of you. Throw yourself into life with enthusiasm, a life ruled by vertical rather than horizontal dreams. Know that only when your dreams belong to the Lord can you experience the best and brightest of lives."

-- Paul David Tripp, "Lost in the Middl"e (p. 158). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.